Presidential visit puts spotlight on South Lombok

The opening of Lombok International Airport, together with the visit of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and state cabinet ministers from 19 – 21 October, has put Lombok in the spotlight for investment and development as Indonesia’s second main tourism destination.

At the Presidential visit, Coordinating Minister Hatta Rajasa said that the Mandalika resort development project was in line with the Accelerated Indonesian Economic Development Master Plan (MPPPEI), which places Bali and Nusa Tenggara as main gateways for tourism.

The construction of the new airport is a direct attempt by the national and provincial governments to open Lombok up to international travellers and, together with the “Visit Lombok Sumbawa 2012” campaign hopes to attract 1 million visitors to the island in the next two years.

Lombok International Airport (LIA) is reported to be able to handle larger aircraft, such as Boeing 747 and Airbus 320, and is designed to handle up to 3 million passengers per year.

At the centre of this development attention is the Mandalika resort area, which was previously slated for a US $600 million development by United Arab Emirates group, Emaar Properties.

The Mandalika resort area spans 1,175 hectares and is located on the south coast of Lombok, less than 30 minutes drive from the new international airport. Its coastline, facing the Indian Ocean, boasts 7.5 kilometres of fine white-sand beaches and unpolluted azure waters. The area is slated to become Indonesia’s new premier destination.

Officiating at the ground-breaking ceremony on 21 October, the President said that investors, especially those involved in developing the Mandalika resort area, must be really serious in investing their money there.

In his speech, SBY said that not all provinces in Indonesia have the uniqueness and superiority of attractions as the Mandalika Resort area.

“Mandalika beach beauty is a blessing that should not be wasted and should be developed for the welfare of the people. It would be a loss if this great tourism potential is not utilized,” he said.

NTB Governor, Zainul Majdi, told press at the ceremony that the Mandalika Resort development had been a dream of the government since 1990. Since that time, the only major hotel built in the region was the Novotel Lombok.

“Now, however, hotels, restaurants and other tourism businesses are springing up in the region,” he said. “Already there are many investors who want to invest in the region, especially at Mandalika Resort and Tanjung Aan.”

He publicly urged Coordinating Minister Hatta to officially list Mandalika as a Special Economic Zone (KEK), which would entitle the area to receive financial support in developing infrastructure and facilities.
In 2010, the Mandalika area was slated to become a mega-development project with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the government and Emaar Properties. The deal later fell through with accusations of failure to fulfill agreements from both sides.

Amidst local controversy, Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC) – the board responsible for the development of Nusa Dua in Bali – was given the authority to handle development of the Mandalika area. BTDC still holds rights over the land.

However, according to recent local media reports, the DPRD NTB (regional parliament) has officially sent a letter to President SBY rejecting future management of the region by BTDC.

A Special Committee for the Acceleration of Handling Mandalika Resort, deliberately formed with the aim to safeguard NTB Parliament’s decision, requested that management rights be returned to the provincial NTB government, saying they were disappointed with BTDC and did not see significant developments in the area to date.

Meanwhile, The Jakarta Post reported on 15 October 2011 that a consortium is planning to build an amusement park similar to Disneyland in the tourism area of Mandalika.

According to the national newspaper, the project is a joint investment of several companies including Rajawali Group (the owner of Novotel Hotel on Aan Beach), a Taiwan investor aiming to develop healthy tourism, and Media Nusantara Citra, which will be in charge of the theme park development.

Whatever the case, there can be little doubt that the south coast of Lombok is now a prime area for investment and development.